“Go ahead, make my day!”
It’s the classic line that we all know, and it comes from the 1983 film, “Sudden Impact,” starring the iconic Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry Calahan.” Now, in case you don’t remember the scene, Dirty Harry has his .44 magnum Smith & Wesson revolver pointed at a criminal who is holding a woman hostage. And what would “make Harry’s day” is to be able to shoot the man point blank, just like he shot the other perpetrators who just attempted to rob a diner.
So, what makes my day?
Well, it’s certainly not the prospect of shooting a criminal, although the world often makes one want to metaphorically (and sometimes literally) shoot one’s enemies. What does make my day is interacting with readers of The Deep Woods, and exchanging ideas on a variety of topics that matter to us all.
Today, I will do just that, by answering some recent questions I’ve received. I will also share some of the replies I received in response to the question I posed in last week’s issue requesting you tell me about your purpose. First, let’s dig into a few of your latest questions.
Question: Finn H. writes: “Jim, I’m really troubled about what’s happening in Israel, and I am horrified by the terror acts committed by Hamas. Even more disturbing is the reaction in defense of this horror by liberal students in elite colleges in America. Is there any sane light you can shed on this for me? Semper Fi, Finn.”
Answer: I, too, am horrified by the actions of Hamas; however, I am not surprised. It seems as if everyone has forgotten why we’ve had to take our shoes off in the airports for the past 20 years. The reason why is because of Islamic jihadism. You see, in secular Western societies, people don’t really believe that a person can be motivated to kill themselves and others for their metaphysical beliefs. I mean, the conflict in the Middle East has to be about oppression, poverty, land disputes, etc., right? Wrong!
The conflict is all about ideas.
Indeed, even a casual reading of the Quran, the Hadiths and cursory knowledge of the life of the Prophet Muhammad gives us the answers as to why these atrocities are happening. In those works, the prescription for holy war, conquest and jihad is arguably the central message of Muhammad and the Quran. Acts of beheadings, torture and mayhem in service of jihad isn’t a “hijacking of the religion” like so many apologists on college campuses say. The people who engage in jihad (albeit a tiny minority of Muslims), are carrying out martyrdom, and they are acting out what they think the creator of the universe has told them is the best way to get to paradise.
Hamas is a jihadist organization. If Israel suddenly laid down their arms and declared they want peace, the kind of slaughter that took place on Oct. 7 would commence on a grotesque scale that would obliterate every Jew “from the river to the sea.” Ideas have consequences, and true belief in the doctrine of jihadism is about as corrosive an idea as anyone has ever conceived. Until we face this reality, and until the West, and more importantly, the Muslim world, condemns the doctrine of jihad, we will continue to grapple with this ugly reality.
Question: T.J. writes, “Jim, I saw your performance at the FreedomFest Jam session in Memphis this year. It was a great night. Do you often perform music, and do you have a website or a YouTube channel where I can hear your original songs?”
Answer: Thanks T.J., and yes, I remember you were there at the Blues City Cafe. Super fun night! Since you asked, I do perform occasionally at some acoustic music venues in Southern California. In fact, I am planning several shows in Spring 2024, so I will give you the heads up as the dates are confirmed. I am also in the process of writing and recording a new album, and thanks to a brilliant director friend of mine, we are also planning on doing a video for one of the songs. All of this is scheduled to be completed by mid-2024, so stay tuned! And once again, thank you!
Question: Josie R. writes: “Do you think a rematch between President Biden and former President Trump is inevitable? Also, who do you think will win?”
Answer: Josie, I will keep this answer brief. Yes, I think a rematch is inevitable. As for who will win, well, given the craziness in our body politic today, I don’t think anyone can say at this point. In this matter, I will defer to the great Bob Dylan and say, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.”
Now, turning to the question I posed last week for you to tell me your purpose, here I got a few thoughtful responses. Allow me to share a few of my favorites right now.
Thanks for asking this question. I’ve been a subscriber of Successful Investing for several years and my father-in-law followed Dick and Doug Fabian’s investing plan.
My purpose is to help make the world a better place. I do this by living and leading with a set of values, volunteering in various local community building activities and contributing to various organizations, including my Baha’i faith. My success with investing plays an important role and I have a lot to learn.
Regards, Jan F.
Love this, Jan. And thank you for being a loyal and longtime reader of Successful Investing.
Hello Jim. Thanks for asking this really important question. Thanks to the classic Seven Habits book, I wrote out my personal mission statement many years ago. I’m now retired and my kids are on their own, so I’d simplify my purpose to helping and serving others. In your case it’s educating investors, and in my case it’s a variety of volunteer and mentoring roles. Thanks for your thoughtful question, and best wishes in pursuing your purpose!
Thanks, David A.
Thank you, David A. Helping others by volunteering and mentoring is something I look forward to doing more of in my retirement, too. And thank you for your thoughtful response.
And now for what I think is my favorite response on the purpose question:
Dear Mr. Woods,
I was about to cancel/delete your letter when I read your opening comments in this month’s email. It stopped me. I have never heard someone in your field ask that question or speak so plainly. Love it.
My purpose in life is to support those around me that require such. Often to their embarrassment or ignorance.
Supporting those around us is a beautiful purpose. Not only does it help those around us, but it helps us in the process. Yes, it isn’t always pretty or easy, especially when embarrassment or ignorance is involved, but doing good isn’t always pretty or easy. Sometimes, we have to do really hard things in a really tough world.
Oh, and thanks for not cancelling/deleting this publication. It is my goal to speak plainly, and to ask questions that others in my field don’t. That’s what I hope makes The Deep Woods unique, and I am very pleased that sentiment resonated with you.
Finally, it’s not too late to weigh in. What is your purpose? I’d love to hear more, and doing so is as simple as sending me an email.
I look forward to your response.
ETF Talk: High Hopes for Much-Hyped Bitcoin
Since its inception in 2009, Bitcoin has profoundly disrupted the foundations of financial markets.
The cryptocurrency market has evolved from a little-known digital asset to one that now serves as a new avenue for investors. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs), such as the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (OTC: GBTC), offer investors a regulated and reportedly secure means to seize emerging opportunities with significant growth potential.
Bitcoin, a form of digital cryptocurrency, has weathered numerous tumultuous periods over the years. Following an initially sluggish start in 2011 that pushed the Bitcoin price to around $30, the currency experienced a significant year in 2013, witnessing gains of 6,600%. Another notable upturn occurred between 2017 and 2019, propelling the price to as high as $20,000. Simultaneously, there was a growing general public awareness of cryptocurrencies.
By November 2021, Bitcoin reached its all-time high, soaring to over $68,500. However, the trajectory shifted, and its value began to decline, dropping by approximately 30% due to China’s mandate to close Bitcoin mining operations, subsequently reducing the mining capacity as computers went offline. Concurrently, increased regulatory concerns emerged regarding crypto laws and regulations, fostering an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and doubt about investing in these assets.
In 2022, rising inflation spurred by the global energy crisis and geopolitical turmoil stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, led to a decline in cryptocurrency prices, ushering in the onset of the “crypto winter” — a bearish period marked by sustained losses in the crypto markets. By June 2022, Bitcoin prices plummeted below $23,000 and continued to struggle following the abrupt collapse of the FTX crypto exchange, attributed to a liquidity crunch and allegations of fraud by Sam Bankman-Fried, the CEO of FTX, who was recently found guilty on all counts by a U.S. federal district court. The downfall of FTX triggered a significant crash, creating a ripple effect across the crypto markets. Other events such as the Terra Luna crash and varying microeconomic conditions in 2022, contributed to an overall loss of approximately 65% of Bitcoin’s market value in 2022. Investor confidence was severely impacted and exacerbated by widespread inflation and continual interest rate hikes. Consequently, the price of Bitcoin plunged below $20,000 by December 2022.
The crypto market is undergoing a notable shift, offering a new sense of optimism for investors. With a consistent rise in prices, the Bitcoin market is recuperating from the “crypto winter” and achieved a new high in February 2023. The interest shown by miners may indicate a bullish trend, as suggested by certain traders and analysts. Bitcoin’s future growth trajectory will significantly hinge on external factors such as sentiment, mining activities, money supply and the network effect, which is exhibited when a product’s value rises as more people use it. All those factors impact the price that investors are willing to pay for a cryptocurrency.
According to a November 2023 Forbes article, Bitcoin is showing a bearish trend. However, it is simultaneously offering hope of recovery, surging from a low of $31,000 to its current value of $34,457. This movement is somewhat impacted by inflation from the U.S. and U.K. economies, as the U.S. Federal Reserve has raised interest rates by 25-basis points in response. Despite optimistic projections for a potential rebound, Bitcoin’s current value remains nearly 50% lower than its all-time high. The upcoming 2024 Bitcoin halving event is anticipated as a potential catalyst for positive price momentum. This could prompt investors to consider options such as Grayscale Bitcoin Trust ETFs to diversify their portfolios and potentially increase their gains, aligning with other products offered by Grayscale.
Moreover, a recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling mandated a reevaluation of Grayscale’s bid to convert its GBTC trust into an ETF, favoring the trust in this decision. This crucial ruling paves the way for the first ETF to offer direct exposure to Bitcoin, enabling individuals with brokerage accounts to invest.
As of October 2023, this fund’s returns were up by 39.5% over the past month and up 239.0% year to date, according to Stock Rover, an investment research platform. As of November 7, 2023, the market price per share was $28.10. The fund has net assets of $21.77 billion under management and an expense ratio of 2.00%.
Bitcoin’s potential to hit $100,000 by 2023 remains debated among experts (including myself, who think this prediction is ridiculous) due to its recent impressive rally and gains, though some suggest this milestone might take longer, potentially a decade. Conversely, certain investors and institutions hold a bearish outlook, predicting a potential crash in Bitcoin’s value, citing reasons such as energy costs, strict monetary policies and market uncertainty that could deter traders and drive its value downward.
Notwithstanding this, funds such as GBTC, managed by Grayscale, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency asset managers, offer an intriguing investment avenue for those seeking to diversify their portfolios within the resurgent crypto market. Nevertheless, investors in this ETF should remain attentive to public sentiment that could affect the fund, along with factors like inflation, microeconomic conditions and other variables. It is essential for investors to thoroughly evaluate each fund’s investment objectives, risk factors, fees and expenses before making any investment decisions.
I am always happy to answer any of your questions about ETFs, so do not hesitate to send me an email. You may just see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.
In case you missed it…
What is Your Purpose?
There’s an old saying in the literary world that a man’s life is incomplete until he has tasted love, poverty and war.
Beginning with the latter, my closest brush came in January 1991. I was just graduating from the U.S. Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Georgia, when the bombs began raining down on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. As it turned out, that conflict was so short-lived that I missed out on the active war leg of the complete life.
As for poverty, well, although I come from a modest middle-class American family, I would hardly say that qualifies as poverty by global standards. And aside from some lean, post-college days working at the financial newspaper Investor’s Business Daily, I also would have to say that poverty mostly has eluded me.
When it comes to love, I think this is where I’ve more than made up for any deficit in the other two complete life components.
Love of family, friends, career, music, literature, philosophy, nature, fitness, sport, combat and, perhaps most of all, love of learning. These are the animating forces at the core of my being.
That love runs particularly deep when talking about the love I have for helping investors better understand — and better profit from — the financial markets. In fact, you might say that this love is a form of war on poverty itself… the poverty of knowledge that keeps investors paralyzed into subpar performance.
Ironically, my love for this pursuit also encompasses my own desire to be a complete man.
In Ayn Rand’s magnum opus “Atlas Shrugged” (in my opinion the very best novel ever written), one of the heroes of the novel is asked, “…what’s the most depraved type of human being?”
The answer: “The man without a purpose.”
This notion stuck with me as a guiding principle when I first read the novel as a 20-year-old trying to sort out the world. And ever since digesting this pithy profundity, I have set my life with “purpose” as my prime directive.
Your editor engaged in his “purpose” of communicating investing knowledge.
In The Deep Woods, my purpose is to shine a more luminous intellectual light on the issues that matter most to me, and that hopefully resonate with you. Sometimes those issues are economic, sometimes they’re social, sometimes they’re philosophic and sometimes they’re political.
Yet, every time, the issues are of personal importance to me, and achieving a better understanding of them is my purpose.
If you’re reading this, I hope sharing my purpose with you has helped you better understand your purpose.
Together, we can learn, grow, flourish and allow the very best within us to express itself — and we’ll do it all while having fun!
So, thank you for your time, attention and trust. I shall always value, cherish and respect them, and I will endeavor to always make this column worthy of you.
Now it’s your turn. Here’s what I want you to tell me: What is your purpose?
How do you see your life’s mission, and what animates your spirit and what is your prime directive?
I know this isn’t exactly a typical survey-style question, but hey, I’m not exactly a typical survey-style person — and I suspect you’re not either.
So, I’d love for you to tell me about your purpose, and doing so is as simple as sending me an email.
I look forward to your response.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
When it comes to love, there is one person in the world that deserves your best. No, it’s not your wife, or husband, or mother or father, or even your favorite progeny (yes, we all have a favorite). The person who deserves your deepest love is… you.
The reason why is because a failure to love yourself means that you have let down the one person in the world who you are most responsible for, and who can have the biggest impact on your happiness, and by extension, the world’s happiness. So, when you make choices about your existence, do so with the requisite self-love needed to make your world just a little bit better.
Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.
In the name of the best within us,